Wanted to take a moment to share a really lovely and elegant video from Narlene Pacheco’s kindergarten classroom at Partnership NYC’s Immaculate Conception School in the Bronx.
Narlene’s teaching demonstrates a lot of elements of the Check for Understanding (CFU) technique, most of all Tracking Not Watching– the idea that careful observation for mastery is a teacher’s first task.
That’s a seemingly simple thing to do but in a complex setting like a classroom it can be challenging. And sometimes techniques like this are most challenging in the younger grades, so the idea that Ms. Pacheco crushes the CFU with her kindergarten is a bonus.
Here’s the video:
Some things we liked:
Ms. Pacheco has a pretty intentional ‘route’ she’s walking while she observes her students working- a pathway around the classroom that’s designed to make sure she sees everyone’s work.
She’s Standardized the Format. Everyone’s workspace looks the same. Everyone’s workspace is clean and tidy. It’s easy to see what she’s looking for.
She’s disciplined to look for achievement not activity. Those are John Wooden’s words–“Never mistake activity for achievement.” It’s not whether students are trying hard but whether they are getting the skill right. She is very careful to watch for mastery.
She uses a hint of Affirmative Checking–“Hands on your head when you are ready.” The idea is that students can signal to you when they are ready to be checked. This lets her know where to look first.
She diagnoses the error she’s seeing. Some kids have the right sounds in the wrong order. This is proof that she’s looking for mastery and if there are errors, what the errors are. She adds a prompt to the whole group to try to help them fix the error. She’s already adapting her teaching to the data.
She spots Clara struggling and Breaks It Down beautifully for her, prompting her to find the error for herself. This is successful in part because Ms. Pacheco shows such patience and Emotional Constancy. [Side note: Clara, honestly, could not be much more adorable with that lovely smile as she figures it out]
She looks carefully in the second example too with the word ‘yet,’ but the results are better. And she’s focusing especially on Clara to see how she does. Clara’s got it now and Ms. Pacheco is sure to reinforce her success.